by Jeffrey Dach MD
I was sitting at my desk chatting with a patient as I usually do, discussing the trillion cells in our body, and what they look like under the microscope. And it occurred to me that we go about our daily routine without knowing what these little cells are doing. Of course, biology and medical science tells us what they do. For the most part they are on Auto-Pilot and do their jobs without any thought on out part.
A Trillion Cells on Auto-Pilot
We carry on during the day with the grand assumption that these trillion cells in our body will continue to do their job, keep us alive and healthy. If these trillion cells fail, then we are not healthy, and may find ourselves lying on a gurney in the hospital Emergency Room. So, the very first thing we should say is: “Thank You” for these trillion cells that keep our bodies alive and healthy.
Above Left Image is a scanning electron microscope view of a human lymphocyte which protects us from infection. Courtesy of wikimedia commons.
DNA Contains a Coded Instruction Set
Our trillion cells go about their jobs keeping us alive and healthy. How do they know what to do? Where do the instructions come from? Our cells know what to do because of a coded instruction set in the cell nucleus. This instruction set resides in our DNA (Deoxyribo-Nucleic-Acid). The structure of our DNA is a double helix, also called a chromosome, or gene. We have 23 pairs of genes (chromosomes) in each cell. We have about a trillion cells. Above Left image courtesy of Mayo Clinic Foundation.
Stephen Meyer, Signature in a Cell
Dr Stephen Meyer argues that information stored in our DNA is a “coded instruction set” . He goes on to argue that the presence of a “coded instruction set” infers an intelligent agent which made the instruction set. He calls this the “best inference from the evidence”. Left image and book cover courtesy of Stephen Meyer.
Stopping Short of the Intelligent Designer
Dr Stephen Meyer;s signature in a cell argument is remarkably similar to a previous version by William Paley in 1802 called the Watch-Maker Analogy.
Finding a Watch in the Sand While Walking on the Beach
While walking on a sandy beach, one might look down and find a watch buried in the sand. Upon picking up and examining the watch, one would conclude that the complicated design of the watch required an “Intelligent Designer”, a watchmaker, a man who makes watches. Living cells and living organisms are much more complex that a watch in the sand, and therefore living cells must have a “Intelligent Designer”. This “Designer” is an Intelligent Agent, the Creator. Left image old watch mechanism courtesy of Dreamspage.
The Mechanical Age Gives Way to the Information Age
The mechanical age of the 19th century has been super-ceded by the computer age. We now have I-phones, laptops, video conferencing and the internet. The 19th century Watch-Maker Analogy has been re-framed for the Information Age by Stephen Meyers. His book explains the William Paley watch in the sand has been replaced by the Double Helix DNA in our cells which contain “coded information”. This coded instruction set in our DNA is a modern discovery of molecular biology. Left image computer circuit board courtesy of finding Dulcinea.
Is There Intelligence in Nature?
The claim that there is intelligence (other than human intelligence) has been present in human thought for millennia, and can be found in ancient documents over five thousand years old. We also find popular novels and books which examine the idea, is there extra-terrestrial intelligence in the universe? For example in Woody Allen’s 1973 science fiction comedy, “Sleeper“, the character Miles Monroe proclaims:
“I’m what you would call a teleological, existential atheist. I believe that there’s an intelligence to the universe, with the exception of certain parts of New Jersey“.(IMDB Quotes)
Let’s look at another such example.
Monolith in the Cell – Space Odyssey 2001 by Stanley Kubrick
A 1968 classic movie, Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey 2001 explores the ideas of extra-terrestrial intelligence. A large rectangular object, the “Monolith” is discovered on the far side of the moon, obviously the result of an intelligent civilization.
Left images courtesy of WIkimedia commons
Kubrick’s 2001 movie opens with the Monolith Scene (see below image) at the dawn of the prehistoric era with Apes fighting around the Monolith. The next scene of Kubrick’s movie fast forwards millions of years to the discovery of another Monolith on the far side of the moon which emits a radio signal upon uncovering it. Knowledge of the Monolith is top secret. A space ship is dispatched to follow the radio beacon to its destination.Kubrick’s Monolith and Meyers’ Coded Instruction Set
The Kubrick Monolith is analogous to the Stephen Meyers’ coded instruction in trillions of our cells. Dr. Meyers would go further, and say there is intelligent coded information throughout Nature, not only found in all living things, intelligent coded instruction sets are found in the non-living world of light and matter.
Maxwell Equations, and “God Said Let There Be Light”
Science has provided understanding of the coded instruction sets in nature. For example, the properties of light are described by the laws of electromagnetism in Maxwell’s equations , the instruction set for the behavior of the light. (left image)
Such instruction sets containing coded information for the behavior of light. This implies an “intelligent agent”. Science has uncovered many other natural laws. The mathematics of these natural laws are instruction sets for the behavior of the natural world. Instruction sets represent information, and like all information, one could infer intelligence for their origin. Above left image courtesy of MIT Museum T Shirt.
What is Intelligence?
So, once we agree that the best inference is that coded instructions in DNA originated from intelligence, then what? We are left with the problem of defining “intelligence”. We think we know what intelligence is, yet once we look at the definition, we discover that we really don’t have a good scientific definition of intelligence. I suspect the reason for this is that our recognition of intelligence is somewhat subjective.
Reading Other People’s Intelligence.
For example, one of the first things we do when meeting a new person, is assess that person’s level of intelligence. Some of us have an innate ability to do this. Some of us lack this ability. When it comes to reading other people, in addition to intelligence, we are interested in other qualities in the new person. Are they a good or a bad person, are they trustworthy, truthful, capable of love, are they happy, depressed, confident, fearful? Is this new person a threat to me in any way?
Friend of Foe?
Will they be a potential ally or a foe? Intelligence is in the Subjective Realm. We can also try to assess the intelligence of animals, such as our cats and dogs that we are familiar with around the house. We can also get the feeling that there is artificial intelligence in some forms of computer software such as chess programs that exhibit a form of artificial intelligence. Again, we do not have any instruments to measure intelligence in an objective way. IQ testing doesn’t seem to be a very good tool.
Let’s assume that we all agree that this is a valid inference, that the coded instruction set in DNA is evidence of the work of an intelligent agent.
Is the Intelligent Agent Friend or Foe?
This brings us back to popular movies like Space Odyssey or Contact in which extra-terrestrial intelligence is the subject of the movie. When primitive man came across tracks or markings indicating an intelligent agent, the intelligent agent was either another primitive human, or else an animal. Either way, the highest priority consideration is whether the intelligent agent is a threat or a friend. This is true for ANY new found intelligent agent in the wild, and must be applied to our new found intelligent agent, the originator of the information in coded DNA.
If a Foe, is the Foe Dangerous to Me?
The first thing we would ask is, “what is the level of this intelligence relative to mine or other humans?” Molecular biologists have concluded that the complexity and elegance of the coded instruction set in DNA is far in excess of anything humans could produce.
A Frightening Realization
This is a frightening realization, because, if the intelligent agent is a threat rather than a friend, then we are at a serious disadvantage. A foe with more intelligence, means a foe with better technology and better weapons.
Aging, Disease and Death
Fortunately for us, it seems that the intelligent agent, if there was malevolent one, has left the scene. And if the agent was a threat, then the only malevolent features being left behind for us are the coded instruction sets for pre-programmed aging, disease and death. I would remiss if I ended this discussion on such a pessimistic and depressing note. There is another take on things.
Gratitude for Life
Saying Thank You for a Trillion Cells
There is another more optimistic viewpoint based on our understanding of the coded instruction sets in our DNA. This is the miracle of life, our own individual life that began as two microscopic specks of matter containing paired instruction sets in the DNA. The underlying intelligence required for the origin of this instruction set is something the ancients understood well.
Whether we use the most powerful instruments to examine the galaxies in space or the smallest particles of the atom, or whether we use the naked eye and the five senses to examine our immediate natural world, we are confronted with the obvious conclusion that the world is permeated with intelligence. This intelligence makes all life possible, including our individual life.
This realization leads to a sense of gratitude to the Creator, and a sense of wonder and awe. Yes, we are faced with the eventual prospect of aging, disease and death. But until that time comes, we will celebrate life.
The Atheist Delusion Video, video demonstrating the Signature in a Cell Concept argument for Intelligent Design…
Jeffrey Dach MD
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